The bcl-2 proto-oncogene can prevent the death of many cell types. Mice were generated that were chimeric for the homozygous inactivation of bcl-2. Lymphocytes without Bcl-2 differentiated into phenotypically mature cells. However, in vitro, the mature T cells that lacked Bcl-2 had shorter life-spans and increased sensitivity to glucocorticoids and gamma-irradiation. In contrast, stimulation of CD3 inhibited the death of these cells. T and B cells with no Bcl-2 disappeared from the bone marrow, thymus, and periphery by 4 weeks of age. Thus, Bcl-2 was dispensable for lymphocyte maturation, but was required for a stable immune system after birth.
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